As I have written more and more of these reports, I have begun to realize that what is important about Field Reports is conveying the important issues to the client. It is too easy to say that “building paper installation has commenced”. That offers very little value to your client. Instead, I have tried to convey information in a richer context. For example, “GC installed approx. 50% of building paper at North wall with only minor deficiencies observed. Deficiencies are as follows:” or “GC has cut the building paper too short. This area should be reinstalled to conform with the permitted drawings.” With this attention to detail, the client is more likely to understand that they are getting their money’s worth.
At the end of this article, you will notice a “read more” link. Please click that link to see a full example of a report that I recently published. A pdf version is also available here.
One of the practices I’ve had to adapt to at my new firm is the use of Identification Initials. My firm uses this line to note the author of the report along with the people who reviewed the report. For example, the last line of a report may read NBL:jhb:sra. Nicholas B. Leone wrote the report, John Herbert Bradley did the review for format and Sophie Roche Anderson reviewed the report for content. I like to use three initials. Two initials is too informal and too often I find duplications.
In my firm, all Field Reports are first reviewed by an office manager for grammar and formatting. A principal is then responsible for reviewing the document for content and accuracy. While this method of double review is wonderful at ensuring high-quality reports, it also heavily increases the time between site observations and report publishing dates. If you implement this sort of practice in your own firm, make sure that you develop a detailed protocol for beginning your report immediately and immediately notifying the next party once you have completed your report. If I am communicating well with my colleagues, we can publish a report 2 days after my site observation.
In my opinion, the photos are one of the most important part of the report as they best convey the message. It is a sad fact that too many architects and contractors are terrible writers. It is also very difficult to use words to describe such visible things such as buildings. The combination of these two factors is what makes the photos so important. To help clarify any ambiguous language, make sure that all photos are referenced in the text. If confused, a reader can jump ahead to the photos to help solidify a point.
My field reports contain a section called “Items for Clarification or Review”. I like to use this section as an opportunity to correct myself before other people do it for me. An actual example is when I noted that installation of GFRC window sills was approx 25% complete. I intended to only write 5% and no one caught the typo. I noticed this mistake after publication and used the next field report to correct myself.
Lastly, and most importantly, I have begun to keep a log of my noted items. This log notes all items from all Field Reports.
- If I note an time that requires no follow up. I record it in the log as "NAN" for No Action Necessary.
- If I observe an item that needs correction such as a door where the wrong hardware is installed, I note the item as "Open" and use conditional formatting to made the cell red.
- Once the contractor corrects my noted issue, I modify the cell to read "Closed" along with green shading. The team now knows that this issue has been resolved.
- Sometimes, I may make note of an issue such as a location where a stucco is supposed to have a sand finish but the contractor had installed a knock-down finish. I have done my part of notifying my client of a non-conforming condition. However, in some cases, the client may accept it (sometimes with a price concession from the contractor). In this case, I enter "RWOR" in my log. RWOR stands for Resolved WithOut Repairs.
After a few published field reports, the usefulness of the log really starts to become evident. Instead of reading through all of my past reports, I can look at my log and quickly understand where I will need to focus my attention during my next site visit. The best part is that if maintained properly and thoroughly, this document will become a first draft of a punchlist at the end of the project. Below is a sample log that similar to those that I keep for my field reports.